Saturday, February 05, 2011

Jobs or war profiteering?

Since the end of the Cold War, the US has been spending approximately half the military expenditures in the entire world. We see the results--civil society around the world dislikes us more and more and we have hollowed out the US economy, currently breathing on partially collapsed lungs.

What could Oregon's new governor--well, the old governor who sat out a couple of terms and is now back--John Kitzhaber do with $213 million? How many jobs could he create in Oregon, a state with high unemployment and a shortfall?

As it happens, the Institute for Southern Studies notes that $213 million is the amount that Lockheed Martin got last year to deliver 20 F 16 fighter jets to Egypt. This $213 million creates about 2,000 jobs, using a methodology described by a U-Mass Economics study from 2007. These two economists concluded that "spending $1 billion on personal consumption, clean energy, health care, and education will all create significantly more jobs within the U.S. economy than would the same $1 billion spent on the military." John Kitzhaber might want to lobby our Oregon federal elected officials to vote to stop military aid to Egypt, thus gaining many friends in civil society in Egypt and throughout the Arab world and reducing the antipathy felt by so many Arabs toward the US. Use some of that $1.3 billion in saved military aid to Egypt to instead fuel job creation in Oregon and other states.

What benefits are derived from military aid to Egypt?
  • We get a dictator loyal to the US.
  • We can render suspects to Egypt for torture.
  • US Navy warships can use the Suez Canal.
  • Egypt helps starve and imprison Gaza.
  • Egypt refrains from attacking Israel.

Are these actually benefits?
  • We build up hatred toward the US for propping up dictators. Tear gas, buckshot and other "crowd control" materials are all made in the USA and each victim knows that.
  • We create fanatical enemies when we torture anyone or hand them over for torture.
  • We could draw down the wars, pull back the Navy, and stop relying on the Suez, saving outstanding amounts of US taxpayer funds.
  • If the border opened between Gaza and Egypt based on our cessation of subsidizing it, the Arab world would thank us and Gazans would be treated like actual humans.
  • Egypt knows that attacking Israel is like suicide by cop at the nation-state level.

From a study done by the Hoover Institution at Stanford University:
The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that it would take $2.2 trillion from all levels of government to bring America’s roads, bridges, and water-related infrastructure into a state of good repair.

Ending the sordid relationship between Egypt and the US crafted by Jimmy Carter at Camp David in 1979 would help fund job creation in the US, make many friends where the population has reason to hate us for funding their oppression, and enable more progress on peace in the Middle East. So, why do we continue this? Because the American people have not decided that they are a more powerful and important lobby than the Lockheed Martin and other war profiteering corporations. This is a basic problem for those interested in promoting nonviolence. We will not see it succeed unless we learn to activate that power, that lobby with muscle from civil society. We see brave Egyptians trying right now, paying even the ultimate price. They are uprising. Can we get a rise out of US civil society?

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